They’ve met this week by Zoom with top La Salle decision-makers. They’ve raised publicity, from local media to Barstool’s head honcho’s joining them, which most definitely raised awareness. As much as all that, they’re working to raise money.
Their goal is the name of their Instagram account: Save La Salle Baseball.
"We want to make La Salle a better place,'' said Joe Ravert, Explorers class of ’16, a former Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania player of the year in his Malvern Prep days, now a CPA and an auditor at Pricewaterhousecoopers. “That’s the whole goal. We know that just bringing in money for baseball isn’t going to do it.”
Interestingly, it sounds like the “respectful” chat their leaders had with La Salle leaders didn’t stay on that larger topic too long.
"You can direct your interest toward baseball only,'' Ravert said they were basically told. “We don’t need you to save the school.”
On Sept. 29, La Salle announced it was cutting seven sports at the end of the academic year. Four men’s sports: baseball, swimming and diving, tennis, and water polo. Three women’s sports: softball, volleyball, and tennis.
The baseball alumni have moved swiftly to try to reverse this decision, working to set up a non-profit, a Go Fund Me account already up and running, with conversations going with some of the deepest pockets they can find.
As at many schools that cut sports, there’s always some irony that these efforts truly ramp up after the cuts are made. (The reason: Nobody saw it coming.) Sometimes, it can matter. When Temple moved to cut seven sports in 2013, men’s and women’s rowing were saved several months later when Gerry Lenfest wrote a $3 million check to renovate the East Park Canoe Club, with the city kicking in another $2 million.
The other sports, including baseball, were gone and are still gone.
At La Salle, Ravert said, discussions by their group have included talks with “big donors, about seven-figure checks -- an eight-figure check in one case.”
Is there an amount that could actually make a difference? We don’t know.
"The plan isn’t just to provide a Band-Aid for baseball for three years,'' said Ravert, who keeps his hand in the sport, coaching and playing.
Of the Zoom meeting, he said of the La Salle leadership, “They were actively note-taking. I would say this, we were treated with respect. It was a very good conversation.”
That part isn’t surprising, under this La Salle administration. It isn’t a cocky bunch at the top. But that isn’t the issue. In announcing the cuts, La Salle said that it isn’t cutting its overall athletic budget, that it can’t compete in 25 varsity sports, that money would be “reinvested” in other sports.
“We have met with and will continue to listen to our student-athletes and those who are most invested in the baseball program,'' was the La Salle statement provided Thursday by an athletic department spokesperson.
"They chose to go to La Salle,'' Ravert said of the current players, mentioning how there are plenty of corporate types and doctors and lawyers who came out of the program over the years. “These kids now, they are forced to reroute their lives, find a new school. They have to ask, will I get to play? There aren’t many places in Philadelphia where kids can play.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the Save La Salle Baseball Instagram page had 2,741 followers. They’ve certainly found an audience. Enough to actually save La Salle baseball? Organizers know that isn’t the key number, since it doesn’t have a $ in front of it.
But if there are enough $$$ to get a renovation for Tom Gola Arena going, could saving a sport or two be the sweetener in the deal? Since this may already be past the bottom of the ninth, that’s not a prediction, just a question.